Probic Vent Ood For Thought


Blake’s 7 – Mission To Destiny: “When You Have Nothing To Lose”

[Blake's 7 - Mission To Destiny: Cally and Avon

Mission To Destiny again shifts the goalposts in Blake's 7. A Flying Dutchman / Agatha Christie pastiche that frames the crew as galactic do-gooders; a Star Trek mission in a Blake's 7 universe. It bears all the hallmarks of Terry Nation's most hackish instincts, recycling plots, set pieces and, of course, character names.

If the plot feels familiar then so too are the characters by this point. Blake and Jenna again adopt their parent role on The Liberator, with Avon the awkward one, Vila the coward and Gan there seemingly to keep the latter in check.

As the most able member of Blake's crew, taking Avon to the Destiny is understandable but it's less clear what he has to gain by taking Cally. Her contribution so far has been to disable the ship while possessed by a malign force and to get captured on her first mission.

Blake's 7 - Mission To Destiny: "I believe you"

Although originally framed as a warrior, not unlike Doctor Who's Leela, it's hard to identify what separates Cally from Jenna at this point, telepathy notwithstanding.

The sole instance of it here, when Cally succumbs to sono vapour, has her moaning "Alone" - presumably a reference to the trauma of being the sole survivor of the Saurian resistance, but this is never expanded upon.

And despite both female characters having moments of agency and self-determination - Jan Chappell's ambiguous "I believe you" to the untrustworthy Sonheim is a nice touch - neither woman is dissimilar from the standard female Doctor Who companion at this point in the series.

Blake's 7 - Mission To Destiny: Mandrian (Stephen Tate)

Onboard the Ortega we get set-piece after set-piece of TV detective drama, no surprise given Terry Nation's extensive background in TV series such as The Saint, The Champions and The Baron, among others. Dudley Simpson clearly notes the shift as his score for Mission To Destiny is less operatic; more suggestive and tense than in previous episodes.

One again, as with The Web, the running storyline of the fight against the Federation takes a backseat to what would now be termed a bottle episode. Although later adopted by series such as Babylon 5, The X-Files and Deep Space 9, this was relatively unusual.

Blake's 7 - Mission To Destiny: "Vila, are you awake?" Avon (Paul Darrow)

Here, Blake's 7 is much more obviously similar to those later shows, as Blake and his crew adopt the roles of galactic good guys, with nothing to gain from helping Destiny beyond the fact they have resisted Federation integration.

In tone too, the programme has shifted. Mission To Destiny has several outright jokes and the banter between the Liberator shipmates is fonder than it has been previously.

Blake's 7 - Mission To Destiny: "I can always sense danger"]

"I can always sense danger," claims Vila at one point.

"Yes, even when there isn't any," remarks Gan with a smile, to Jenna's amusement.

Even Avon's barbs are delivered without his trademark sneer. Later we have the first stirrings of Avon's occasional fondness for Vila, when he contacts The Liberator to ask if he is awake. He smiles a genuine smile when the thief replies in the negative.

When Cally remarks that among her people a man cannot be betrayed, only mistaken, Avon replies: "Life expectancy must be fairly short among your people." But even this seems playful, flirtatious even.

Blake's 7 - Mission To Destiny: "You just bet both our lives on it"

Although much of this demonstrates how significantly Blake's 7 has moved away from the template of The Way Back and Space Fall, it works surprisingly well. Avon makes a convincing protagonist; a man who is self-centred and cautious, but also one who 'can't resist a mystery'.

Paul Darrow's significant experience in theatre allows his to carry several stagey, expositional scenes with ease - and Avon's narcissism, not to mention his background as a criminal, make him a believable detective.

Blake's 7 - Mission To Destiny: "...already knows"

Even the neutrotrope that will ensure the survival of Destiny, apparently beyond even the value offered by The Liberator, doesn't seem to distract him. Despite his protestation that he wouldn't care if the planet were to turn into 'a mushroom' and cavilling at Cally offering them up as hostages, the game's afoot, and besting the thief appears to be reward enough for him.

That suspicion is confirmed when he knocks out the villain with a punch and 'rather enjoys it'. Few television heroes punched women, even villainous women, in the face during this era, but Avon's actions are consistent: Man or woman, Avon will happily strike or kill a foe.

Blake's 7 - Mission To Destiny: "I rigged a charge"

With the mystery wrapped up there's just enough time for Blake to blow the villain, the Ortega and the ship with which it docks out of the sky.

For Blake the implication that the crew would happily allow a planet to starve is all the reason he needs to kill every single one of them - news he imparts with an amused grin.

It's a useful, troubling reminder of Blake's blithe outlook on good and evil.

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Blake’s 7 – Seek-Locate-Destroy: “Because I Want To Survive”

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Travis and Blake

In the previous five weeks of Blake's 7 we've been introduced to the notional Seven and we've become well-versed in Blake's fight against the Federation. In Seek-Locate-Destroy we get something of a warm reboot, a re-setting of the template of the show that casts the regulars as freedom fighters waging a terrorist resistance. If Blake's 7 is The Dirty Dozen in space then this is their first mission.

Blake's thinking is sound enough: steal a Federation cipher, destroy the base to cover his tracks and read the enemy's top-secret communications. With a computer expert, a strongman, a picklock, a warrior woman and a crack pilot - not to mention the best ship in the galaxy - it should be a cinch. Except something goes wrong and Cally gets left behind. Not only that, but Blake's an old enemy is tasked with capturing and killing him.

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Teleporting

The dynamic of the crew attempting a daring raid or rescue, only for something to horribly wrong, is one enforced by the position of Blake and the others as outsiders and the need to maintain some sort of power balance that ensures the freedom fighters remain underdogs. Meanwhile production considerations mean storylines concerning significant uprisings or victories - such as those seen in later comparable shows such as Babylon 5, Farscape or Deep Space 9 - are never within grasp.

So while in Seek-Locate-Destroy we hear of Blake's popularity in fomenting revolt within the Federation, from Rontane and Bercol, we never get any sense of scale beyond the lightning raids that become a stock-in-trade for the show. However in this episode we do get to see Blake's crew working as a convincing unit, even Vila, for whom his work is clearly one of the few distractions that allows him to forget his natural cowardice. Vila's skills with locks are evident, but he is also relied on here for his cunning and is even tasked with attacking guards. Nevertheless Vila remains anxious.

Blake's 7: Vila distracts the guards

"Blake, don't leave me!" he begs, the having knocked out two Federation guards with Blake - a rare moment of suavity for Vila in distracting them. But Blake does leave Vila and the guards, all are forgotten with his goal within reach.

Avon, Gan and Jenna all have their usual parts to play too, though Cally is lost in the mix. Easily overcome by one of the scientists she is notionally guarding, her role within the team as warrior is not evident here.

In losing Cally on Centero while the rest escape it's unclear who is most to blame. Quite why Blake thinks she is the best suited to guard the prisoners is unclear, when Gan is also among the landing party. The big man seems to forget about Cally, as does Vila who is arguably responsible for the alarm being sounded.

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Blake and Avon

But it's Jenna - who has already shown outright hostility to Cally - who is arguably most at fault. Later in her conversation with a grieving Blake she barely hides her contempt towards Cally.

"She convicted herself - you can't live like that. You've got to make peace with yourself, Blake, if you want to survive." Blake returns a withering look and walks away. It's the only occasion he is unimpressed by Jenna's counsel and it invites the reading that Jenna is less than devastated by Cally's apparent death.

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Travis and Prell

In Seek-Locate-Destroy we see much less of Avon, largely because his role as Blake's chief antagonist is taken by Travis, the leather-suited Space Commander with a reputation for ruthlessness so severe even Federation officers are in open revolt against him.

Seek-Locate-Destroy gives us a much richer picture of the Federation than previously in that we see scientists and troops such as Prell and Rai who are simply carrying out their duties - and even demonstrating some professional ethics.

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Travis and Servalan

For his part Travis, much like Avon, appears realistic above all. Although we do see him looking at images of Blake being tortured, he does not seem to revel in Cally's discomfort.

He wears an eyepatch and has refused reconstructive surgery on his face - "you're certainly not decorative,' remarks Servalan, archly - because he sees disfigurement as a simple hazard of the job.

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Blake and Jenna

Travis and Blake bear scars both physical and psychological from their first encounter. Both men are single-minded and use their understanding of one another to gain the upper hand. They are seemingly set to forever play out their shared past.

But perhaps Blake recognises a way to make peace with his own past in Seek-Locate-Destroy, as Jenna urges. While Travis fixates on avenging himself upon his enemy, Blake is more sanguine, telling him: "You don't matter enough to kill". Travis might imagine himself as Blake’s nemesis; Blake is playing for far higher stakes.

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